Following a dominant performance in Europe during the week, United looked to carry that on as they travelled to the Emirates stadium to play Arsenal, in the first of 3 crunch matches in a week for the reds. Having enjoyed success at the Emirates in recent years, United were confident they could inflict another blow to Arsenal, whose season has totally capitulated since their defeat to Birmingham in the Carling Cup final in March. With Ryan Giggs suffering from the flu, and Antonio Valencia rested for the midweek return against Schalke, the only changes in the United line up were the introductions of Anderson and Nani, in what is now a much familiar United system with Rooney and Hernandez up front.
With seemingly nothing to play for this season, Arsenal would have been forgiven for simply going through the motions in a match where only pride was at stake for the North london club. However, Arsene Wenger’s side started the brightest, with Jack Wilshere wasting a golden opportunity early on after a poor clearance from Nemanja Vidic. United appeared to be suffering from one of their infamous European hangovers, as the reds struggled to build any momentum and get Wayne Rooney into the game. In a half dominated by methodical Arsenal build up, the biggest talking point came on the half hour mark, as Vidic appeared to handle a Theo Walcott cross away from the onrushing Robin Van Persie. United did finally threaten the Arsenal goal midway through the half, as the impressive Fabio found himself in the Arsenal area, only for his pass to Hernandez to be well blocked by Bakary Sagna.
Half time came at a good time for United, who had in truth disappointed in the first half, second best to Arsenal’s effort and commitment. A Fergie half time team talk however appeared to galvanise the reds, as we began the second half with an added impetus and desire. First Rooney’s well struck free kick forced a decent save from Szczesny, and then closely after Vidic narrowly missed a towering header from a corner. Yet, just as United were in the ascendancy, Arsenal hit with a sucker punch, as some neat build up from Robin Van Persie found Aaron Ramsey on the edge of the area, allowing the former United target to slot Arsenal into the lead.
With the title now in the balance, a pulsating last half an hour ensued, as United threw on Berbatov, Owen and Valencia in an attempt to salvage a crucial point from the match. As the reds pushed forward though, Arsenal looked equally dangerous on the break, with Arshavin and Van Persie proving a constant menace to the United defence, preventing us from playing it out comfortably. Despite heavy pressure in the final ten minutes, United would be disappointed in the way they failed to really work Szczesny, as Arsenal defended resolutely. However with stoppage time looming, it was Uniteds turn to be on the wrong end of some poor officiating, as Michael Owen was clearly clipped by Gael Clichy in the penalty area, only for referee Chris Foy to wave away vehement United protests. United tamely succumbed to their 4th league defeat of the season, with next Sundays game against Chelsea now a potential title decider, with United having to avoid defeat in order to remain top of the table. First for the reds though, the second leg of the Champions League semi final, with a place at Wembley on the line.